manga, Manga reviews

Review: Star-Crossed!! vol. 1

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Story and art: Junko
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Shoujo, Supernatural
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: Has a concert ever changed your life? Azusa adores Chika-kun, the cutest and most popular star in the idol group Prince 4 U, and she’s thrilled to get front-row seats to his latest show. She would do anything for him. So when a stage light falls, Azusa leaps onstage and…fails to save Chika’s life. The two are off to heaven, where God gives them a second chance—except a mixup resurrects Azusa in Chika’s body, and vice versa! What on Earth could be in store for this odd couple of pampered celeb and drooling fangirl?!
Publication date: 16th February 2021

star-crossed

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

High-schooler Asuza is obsessed with idol Chika, star of the band Prince 4 U. Her room is adorned with posters of him, she gets up at 4am to get in line for his concerts, and she makes her family watch television performances.

At the latest Prince 4 U concert, Asuza lucks out and manages to nab herself a front row seat – any fan’s dream come true. Disaster strikes when a light fitting falls on Chika, killing both him and Asuza who has leapt into action to save her idol. In heaven, God reveals this was an error by one of his staff and the pair shouldn’t be dead, so he sends them back to earth where they are accidentally switched into each other’s bodies.

Now, I love a good body swap comedy as much as the next person, but the first volume of Star-Crossed!! felt a bit flat. The body swapping happens really early on in the manga, and I think it would have benefitted from some more characterisation of Asuza and Chika to establish them as individuals before the body swap happened. All we as readers really know about them is that Asuza is a Chika fan-girl and Chika is an idol, we know nothing else. Other characters later comment that they’re acting strangely or addressing them in different ways, but we really only have their say so on this. I think some preamble would have been good so as a reader you could identify that Asuza and Chika were acting out of character without having to have it pointed out.

What sets Star-Crossed!! apart from other body swap stories is that Asuza and Chika swap back and forth several times. It seems God hasn’t quite got his powers down, and the pair are in their own bodies one moment, then each others the next. This makes for a fairly interesting concept, and does help to develop the personalities of each protagonist more and give you an insight into their true character and habits when they are in their own bodies. As mentioned before, I do think some of this sort of content would have been beneficial before the first body swap instance, but it does get into it eventually which is good.

As a first volume, Star-Crossed!! does a good job of setting up the plot for future volumes. It’s not particularly exciting on its own, but it does end on a cliffhanger of sorts which has made me want to continue reading, and I think there’s the potential for the series to be quite amusing and heartfelt. Though I didn’t find it riproaringly funny, I did chuckle along at times, and can definitely see how Asuza and Chika will be put into some funny situations in future which lends itself to some more laughs to be had.

3 stars

 

 

NetGalley requires users to rate on a star rating of 5, so I have adjusted my star ratings for any reviews for manga reviewed via NetGalley. Non-NetGalley reviews will remain out of 10.

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manga, Manga reviews

Review: Haru’s Curse

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Story and art: Asuka Konishi
Genre: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life, Psychological, Josei
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: Natsumi’s little sister Haru was her whole world—and now she’s gone. After the funeral, Natsumi reluctantly agrees to date her sister’s fiancé Togo. But as their relationship develops with the passing seasons, Haru’s memory lingers over them like a curse.
Publication date: 16th February 2021

haru

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Haru’s Curse is the story of Natsumi following the death of her sister, Haru. Natsumi believes that she will be cursed by Haru because following her funeral, she has started dating Haru’s fiancé, Togo. Natsumi agrees to date Togo on the condition that she wants him to only take her to places that he took Haru, so she can feel closer to Haru after her passing.

Though the manga starts with Haru’s funeral, there are a lot of flashbacks to events prior to the funeral which really help establish the relationships between Haru, Natsumi and Togo. I really liked the change between past and present day, and I felt it worked especially well to show the contrast between Togo and his relationship with each of the sisters.

Haru’s Curse is a very real and raw portrayal of death and grief. As a reader, you see a lot of Natsumi and Togo struggling with their own feelings about Haru’s death, as well as their extended families. Haru’s Curse doesn’t shy away from a serious subject matter, with many serious and often dark subject matters touched on, but in a very respectful way.

As expected, there are a lot of hurdles throughout Haru’s Curse. Not only do Natsumi and Togo have to wrestle with their own guilt and emotions surrounding Haru’s death, but there are also a lot of outside influences interfering in their relationship and

The characters of Natsumi and Togo feel incredibly nuanced, whilst also feeling very realistic. Natsumi is hardworking, excitable and cheerful, but to Togo she seems the total opposite. Togo, who comes from a prestigious family, has his whole life mapped out for him according to his family traditions and expectations. As Natsumi and Togo’s relationship develops, the reader beings to see the effect they each have on each other and how they each change as a result of their relationship.

What I really liked about Haru’s Curse is that characters actually talk to each other. I’ve read a lot of manga where miscommunication is key, or characters bottle things up, but in this there is none of that. This helps all of the characters feel a lot more like the adults they are meant to be, and also a lot more realistic – this is what real people do after all! Well… for the most part anyway.

There’s a lot to like about Haru’s Curse, and it poses really interesting questions about how to honour the dead and how to move on after the death of a loved one. Haru’s Curse does seem to go too far at times – I did feel like it could have been left that Natsumi and Haru’s relationship was just sisterly, but the manga edges slightly further this and Natsumi declares at points that she was in love with Haru. Fortunately, this isn’t really a main area of focus and you can easily move past it and focus on the many great parts of Haru’s Curse. 

4 stars

 

 

NetGalley requires users to rate on a star rating of 5, so I have adjusted my star ratings for any reviews for manga reviewed via NetGalley. Non-NetGalley reviews will remain out of 10.

 

manga, Manga reviews

Review: Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan vol. 1

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Story and art: Gaku Kuze
Genre: Comedy
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: Uramichi is a 31-year-old host on a kids’ show who leads exercise routines and teaches life lessons colored by one main theme: Adulthood sucks. Alongside mascots played by a couple of bushy-tailed twentysomethings and a singing duo whose music embodies the notion of being kicked while you’re down, Uramichi wades through the misery of working life, one sardonic comment at a time.
Publication date: 8th December 2020

oniisan

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I’d seen screenshots of panels of Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan floating around the internet for a few months prior to getting my hands on this copy via NetGalley, and it instantly resonated with me. Uramichi Omota is a former gymnast who works as a host on a children’s television show, but he is the total antithesis of what you’d expect from someone in his position. He’s pessimistic and sarcastic, and probably one of the most relatable characters I’ve ever encountered.

What I really loved about Uramichi as a character is how matter of fact he is. He really tells it straight, even to the children appearing on his show. The children themselves are also extremely funny, and they’re like the antidote to Uramichi. They’re also very mature, and hearing the children say things which seem much older than their years is also very amusing.

Uramichi seems totally disillusioned with life, and so do his co-stars. I think this is really good to see and makes a great change from endlessly optimistic shounen protagonists, and as an older person (I’m actually the same age as Uramichi!), it makes the manga much more relatable to see someone who is dealing with everyday things but has become fed up with life – haven’t we all, especially in lockdown!

Uramichi manages to simultaneously be depressing and cynical, but at the same time the way he delivers his message and interacts with his co-stars is also whimsical and hilarious, so the tone of the manga manages to remain positive and upbeat despite the outlook of its characters.

Generally speaking, I’m not much of a fan of manga (or anime!) that are a series of skits or vignettes. I much prefer a good story arc, with a continuous plot. Whilst some chapters do reference back to other events, mostly Uramichi Oniisan spends a chapter on a different skit or event which are reasonably standalone. I feel like had it been more of a developing plot it would have given more chance for the comedy to escalate, but as it stands Uramichi Oniisan is still really funny and has plenty of laugh out loud moments.

By the end of the volume, some jokes do feel a bit well worn – things I was laughing heartily at at the beginning of the manga seemed a bit overdone the more things went on. That said, there are plenty of positive things going on to make Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan a really fun read.

4 stars

 

 

NetGalley requires users to rate on a star rating of 5, so I have adjusted my star ratings for any reviews for manga reviewed via NetGalley. Non-NetGalley reviews will remain out of 10.

2021 challenges, Challenges

2021 Challenges: January Recap

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January feels like one of those months where time has just totally got away from me. It seems like I’ve had barely any free time, despite having not really achieved all that much. It’s been a weird one!

This is also going to be the shortest post I’ve ever done, because I have made barely any movement on the challenges. I’m off to a really poor start, and I’m starting to think maybe I was a bit optimistic about things!

As a reminder, my challenges were:

  • Watch 45 anime
  • Read 50 complete manga
  • Watch 30 films
  • Watch 30 anime films
  • Get 35 platinum trophies
  • Clear 30 games from my backlog
  • Play 12 Switch games
  • Read 12 books

I’ve done slightly more than nothing – I watched one film, Jojo Rabbit. Here’s hoping for a better February!

blog, Unboxing

Unboxing: ISpyKawaiiSuppliesKawaii Mystery Box

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My childhood stationery obsession has come back full force, and I cannot stop buying stationery mystery boxes. I had bought one from ISpyKawaiiSupplies at the tail end of 2020, and really loved everything I got in it. I didn’t do an unboxing so you’ll just have to take my word on that one. ISpyKawaiiSupplies is UK based, so I was really happy to be supporting a local seller and knew that the shipping would be quick (well, as quick as it can be in a pandemic!). ISpyKawaiiSupplies has an option on their Etsy that you can pick a character or theme for the smaller boxes, or you can pick a larger box. I think the boxes are the best value for money for any subscription box that I’ve got so far – the smaller boxes are £15 plus shipping, and the larger boxes are £30 including shipping. A bargain!

IMG_8641The first thing that struck me when I opened up my mystery box was how many things were in the box. I could immediately tell that the items were easily worth over how much I spent on the box, which is always a good thing. It was also really colourful and had a big visual impact as soon as I opened it, and I could instantly see some items that looked really exciting! Let’s get into it.

 

 

IMG_8642First up, some really cute pens! I love the design on them. The ones on the right have a highlighter end and a fine felt-tip pen end. They’re actually a lot darker in tone than the pastel outside would let you believe, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as I have plenty of pastel pens as it is! The pens on the left are blue fine-liners, and so cute!

 

IMG_8644Next I got some stickers! The ones on the left came with a couple of pencils too, and are all cat themed and very cute. The right hand ones are Molang, which isn’t something I really know too well, but I also got some Molang stickers in my last box from ISpyKawaiiSupplies, and I thought the characters were really cute then and I still do! As I said before, I really love getting stickers so I can jazz up my bullet journal!

IMG_8645I also got a Sumikko Gurashi PVC wallet file. At first I wasn’t totally sure what to do with it, but I realised it’s the perfect size for a pencil case! Again, I’m not too familiar with Sumikko Gurashi, but I seem to get something in every subscription box I get so I should probably get into it more!

 

 

IMG_8647I’m getting quite the collection of sticky notes! I got these two in my box this time. I love the shiba one, I have used it already for some work reminders that I have stuck up on my desk and every time I look at it I smile, he’s just so cute! I actually just did a quick online search for the pack on the left, and I found out that sadly it is counterfeit art stolen from a Korean artist, so it’s a little disappointing that it’s in the box, but I will give the benefit of the doubt and assume that the seller didn’t know. The original artist is Studio Dalgona, and here is a tweet about the stolen artwork! I will do my best to support Studio Dalgona in future and place an order with them when I can to make up for this as I don’t want to be in the habit of supporting art theft.

IMG_8648To end on a much lighter note, my two favourite items in the box! The item on the left, believe it or not, is a Pikachu themed pair of scissors! They’re just so cool, I’m amazed by them. You pull the top half off, and then the actual scissor mechanism is spring loaded. I’ve used them at every available opportunity this weekend. On the right is some My Neighbor Totoro washi tape, which is something I use a lot of for journalling, so I’m very happy to have it.

 

 

You’ll notice I’m a huge dummy, and there are a couple of items that I forgot to photograph. Firstly a Rilakkuma rubber (eraser!), and secondly some correctional tape. Both very useful items to have!

I hope you liked seeing what I got in my box. I hope you’ll agree that it was really good value for money, and I got a lot of really cool items! What was your favourite thing that I got?

 

 

 

blog, purchases

January Purchases

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Collecting up everything for this post, it looks like I had a sensible month. My bank balance would say otherwise, but I think that’s mostly due to paying for preorders and I bought a lot of stationery which I’ve already talked about in previous posts.

IMG_8659We’ll kick off with my new anime additions. If you remember back to the Anime Limited mystery box I got, in the box was Welcome to the Ballroom part 1. You’ll all know by now, I can’t leave a collection unfinished, so I bought part 2 with a code for 20% off. I also added O Maidens In Your Savage Season to my order, as I’ve heard really good things about it.

 

IMG_8661I started the year by playing a lot of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and it reignited an interest in mythology within me. I wanted to read more about Norse mythology so my knowledge wasn’t just formed from Valhalla and Marvel movies. I also bought a book on Japanese folk tales, which was on my Christmas list but actually became really difficult to buy around that time for some reason, but I managed to get my copy on eBay for pretty cheap!

IMG_8660And finally (I know!) rounding off the post with some manga. I bought the latest volume of My Dress Up Darling despite still not having read the previous volume. I wrote a quick review of the first volume and I really liked it a lot, so I’m looking forward to cracking on with it. I also started to buy a new series, The Kingdoms of Ruin. I haven’t read this yet either, but I really liked the general premise and I thought the cover art looked really cool. I’ll write up a review of it when I’ve read it!

A pretty short post this month, but I have a lot of preorders due to arrive in February so the next purchases post should be a lot more exciting!

manga, Manga reviews

Review: Orient vol. 1

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Story and art: Shinobu Ohtaka
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Shounen
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: At age 10, best friends Musashi and Kojiro sat in excited silence as Kojiro’s father span tales of evil demons who preyed on the innocent, and the warriors who defeated them. Practicing swordplay, the two swear an oath to become the strongest in the world. But as they grow up, Kojiro turns cynical, and Musashi comes to realise that he can’t turn back 150 years of demon rule on his own. He’s being called a prodigy with a pickaxe, and he’s almost ready to settle for a life of labor. Yet he can’t shake the feeling that he still has a responsibility to act… and, soon, the injustices of his world will force his hand.
Publication date: 26th January 2021

orient

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Musashi and Kojiro are childhood friends who have grown up with a shared dream to become bushi – warriors who are tasked with ridding the world of evil demons. Bonding over their shared dream, and spending all their free time training to achieve their goals, the pair realise that bushi are not the revered warriors that they’ve always imagined, and are actually outcasts in their world.

Musashi begins to train to become a miner; allegedly the most esteemed occupation in their world. Musashi and Kojiro begin to drift apart as their lives move towards separate points, but events cause the two to converge again and their dreams align once more.

Though the majority of the story is current time, the manga is peppered with flashbacks to Musashi and Kojiro’s childhood, showing their training and their school lives. It’s really cool to see how their different backgrounds had an impact on the two characters, and how they were both influenced differently by the same events.

Orient does seem like a pretty generic shounen manga at this early stage and ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to shounen tropes. That said, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Orient does drama well, and the battle scenes are really exciting to read and have you rooting for the characters.

There are some really interesting titbits peppered through the manga, none of which I want to spoil in case it ends up being a bigger point than I anticipate at the moment but it definitely adds a layer of intrigue that makes me want to check out future volumes.

For a first volume, Orient does a fantastic job of world creation and getting the reader invested in the plot and the fates of the characters. It does often feel like too fast-paced and that too much is crammed in and one thing is happening after another in rapid succession without much time to process what has just happened. Though this does feel like an issue at times, it does also work for the manga because as at the end of the volume you do feel fully invested as a reader.

3 stars

 

 

NetGalley requires users to rate on a star rating of 5, so I have adjusted my star ratings for any reviews for manga reviewed via NetGalley. Non-NetGalley reviews will remain out of 10. 

Game Reviews, Games

Review: Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy

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Just two years after her first game, Reisalin “Ryza” Stout is back with Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy. This time, she’s on an adventure from her home of Kurken Island and has travelled to Asha-Am-Baird to investigate mysteries surrounding some ruins while reuniting with some familiar faces.

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Atelier Ryza 2 hits the ground running, straight into the thick of things with its mystery heavy plot and into the dungeon exploration the series is loved for. It’s not strictly necessary to have played Ryza’s first outing to make sense of this offering, but certainly those who have will get a kick out of seeing returning characters and referenced events.

Read my full review at Push Square.

blog, Unboxing

Unboxing: Blippo Kawaii Shop Fukubukuro

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IMG_8631I saw an advert for Blippo Kawaii Shop, and thought it would be a really cute idea to get a fukubukuro this year. A fukubukuro, for those that don’t know, is a Japanese New Year’s custom of filling up lucky bags with leftover stock and selling them at a big discount. Mine was actually fairly cheap, approximately £19 including shipping. Initially I wanted either the ‘Kawaii Stationery Bag’ or the ‘Kawaii Sticker Bag’, but annoyingly both of those were sold out when I placed my order, so I opted for the ‘Kawaii Mixed Bag’ instead. I’m still not sure how I feel about the bag overall, but here’s what I got…

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We’ll start with the positive! I got this really cute Cinnamoroll mini-plushie and a pair of San-X socks. I’m really unfamiliar with San-X, but the character is really cute, and you can never go wrong with socks, right?

 

 

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Next up, some toiletries of sorts. The small item is a mirror, which folds out, and then as is custom these days, some face masks! Both of which will be really handy to pop in my handbag in the eventuality I ever leave the house. I also got this cute make-up bag, which I might even use as a pencil case as I have so many make-up bags now!

 

 

IMG_8636I also got a lot of stationery, which I’m really happy about! In my last unboxing post I mentioned that I wanted more practical items out of these boxes, so that box is definitely ticked! I got some sticky notes in the shape of a little bottle (not sure what, I could make an effort and translate the writing, but I’m not that bothered!), a pen, a lipstick shaped rubber (eraser for you over the pond), and some Disney stickers. I’m sure I’ll get plenty of use out of all of these items! The only one I’m less certain of is the transport themed stickers, as they’re not really my aesthetic, but you never know!

IMG_8632Now onto the not so great… I got some sweets, which I’m sure are probably nice, but due to all my allergies and dietary requirements I can’t eat. Again, I could spend some time translating the ingredients but I don’t really want to risk a mistranslation, so I’ll just let my parents have these! 

IMG_8637I then got a few items which just baffled me. These were a clip in hair extension with bright pink hair, a set of mesh clip-in hair bows, and an iPhone case for a model so old I’m not even sure what it is. I’m pretty certain I’m too old to pull off the hair accessories, and I don’t know anyone with the model of phone that the case would fit, so sad to say, all of these items went into the bin.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the items I got in my fukubukuro bag. For £19 I think I got my money’s worth. There were some duff items but the other items made up for it. What did you think of the things I got in the bag?

manga, Manga reviews

Review: Whisper Me a Love Song vol. 1

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Story and art: Eku Takeshima
Genre: Yuri, Romance, Shoujo Ai
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: Bubbly, energetic first-year high school student Himari falls head over heels for her senpai Yori after hearing her band perform on the first day of school. Himari tells Yori she’s fallen in love at first sight, and, to Himari’s surprise, Yori confesses that she has as well! But when Himari realises that she and Yori are feeling two different kinds of love, she begins to ask herself what “love” really means…
Publication date: 20th October 2020

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I’ve never really delved too much into yuri manga or anime before, only having watched one yuri anime and never having read any manga from the genre. When I saw Whisper Me A Love Song on NetGalley, I thought the cover art looked really cute and I was interested in the musical element.

Whisper Me A Love Song follows Himari Kino, a first-year student embarking on her high school journey. At the opening ceremony for the new school year, Himari sees SSGirls, a band comprised of fellow students, with Yori Asanagi filling in on vocals and guitar. When Himari sees Yori, she declares that she has fallen in love at first sight and she is spellbound by Yori’s singing prowess. Bumping into Yori later that day, Himari makes her declaration again, and here is where the misunderstandings begin.

From the early chapter of Whisper Me A Love Song it’s clear that Himari and Yori have different definitions of what ‘love at first sight’ means. Yori, thinking that Himari means she is romantically interested in her, starts to develop matching feelings for Himari – or so she thinks. When Yori and Himari meet later it’s clear Himari meant her declaration as more of an admiration for her senpai rather than anything further. Though slightly put out, Yori rallies and makes her own declaration – she’s going to make Himari “fall in love so hard” with her, and the premise is set.

The characters of Yori and Himari couldn’t be more opposite. The older Yori is reserved, shy and gloomy, where Himari radiates pure sunshine, she’s energetic, cheerful and talks non-stop. Seeing the two interact feels really special and genuine, as they both start to change the more time they spend together.

Whisper Me A Love Song has Yori and Himari spending quality time together, so it’s really nice to see their feelings develop the more time they spend together. Once the girls get past the initial ‘love at first sight’ stage, though both thinking different things, they come to realise they’re interested in each other on a less superficial level and value the time they spend together, which is really wholesome.

What I especially liked about Whisper Me A Love Song is that it doesn’t follow the usual tropes of love stories and misunderstandings. Yori is very straightforward with Himari and tells her often in what way she likes her. Apart from the initial misinterpretation, there’s no time wasted and it gives the story time to focus on the girls’ blossoming relationship and their own character development. Yori takes the time to understand her feelings and then does something about it, which is really refreshing to see.

Volume one of Whisper Me A Love Song was a really great introduction to Yori and Himari, and really got me invested in their relationship. I’m really excited to see where things go for Yori and Himari in future volumes, and whether they’ll finally get on the same page about their feelings.

4 stars

 

 

NetGalley requires users to rate on a star rating of 5, so I have adjusted my star ratings for any reviews for manga reviewed via NetGalley. Non-NetGalley reviews will remain out of 10.